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Tackling policy issues head on

Alum Jennifer Ditchburn takes on new challenge after a career of reporting from Parliament Hill
October 12, 2016
By Susan Attafuah-Callender

“I’m looking at the big issues that are facing this country in a variety of areas,” says Jennifer Ditchburn, BA 96. After nearly 20 years as a journalist on Parliament Hill, she took on a new challenge this March as the editor-in-chief of Policy Options.

Jennifer Ditchburn One of Jennifer Ditchburn’s three National Newspaper Awards was earned alongside her colleague Heather Scoffield at The Canadian Press. They diligently covered the elimination of Canada’s long-form census by the Conservative Party in 2010 and were the first to break news of it.

The online magazine is affiliated with the Institute for Research on Public Policy, an independent national think tank. Policy Options reports on the issues that policy makers at all levels are talking about — or should be.

“There are so many things that our decision makers are grappling with,” says Ditchburn.

“It’s really exciting because it can span anything from artificial intelligence to healthcare for the aging population. I’m trying to feed that debate by bringing writers in to cover different policy issues and to look at things from many angles,” she says.

More than just feeding major policy discussions, Ditchburn gives them a balanced diet of Canadian perspectives. “I’m seeking to expand the diversity of voices that are in our pages,” she adds.

“There should be, for example, many more indigenous voices that are heard — not only on indigenous issues but on all Canadian policy issues.”

Lasting in print

Sharp Wits and Busy Pens “My work for both books was partially drawn from my master’s thesis,” says Jennifer Ditchburn of the two recent volumes she contributed to, Sharp Wits and Busy Pens and The Harper Factor.

Ditchburn’s journalistic career began while still a student at Concordia. From her first year of university in the early 1990s of onwards, Ditchburn wrote for student publication The Link. She eventually became The Link’s news editor.

With encouragement from her professors, Ditchburn began freelancing outside of Concordia. Over the course of her undergraduate degree, she was an editor at the package delivery company UPS for their employee newsletter and wrote for local newspapers including the Montreal Gazette, Montreal Mirror and The Sherbrooke Record.

“I’m a big fan of Concordia because of the great flexibility they showed me as a student,” she says.

Ditchburn thought she would have to give up on her chance of earning a degree when she was offered a full-time job with The Canadian Press in her final year of study. Thankfully, the Department of Journalism allowed her to collect credit for her professional work in order to graduate.

“It showed a real pragmatic side to the institution,” she says. “They recognized that the end goal was to have graduates go on to succeed in their chosen fields.”

History firsthand

In 1995 Ditchburn began at The Canadian Press, covering the buildup to Quebec’s sovereignty referendum. By 1997, she landed in Ottawa reporting from Parliament Hill, with special attention to the conservative movement.

The Harper Factor The Harper Factor, co-edited by Jennifer Ditchburn, will be published October 19.

“I really enjoyed watching history unfold as a political journalist,” says Ditchburn. She was a reporter with CBC TV from 2001 to 2006 before returning to The Canadian Press.

Ditchburn has won three National Newspaper Awards and the 2015 Charles Lynch Award for outstanding coverage of national issues. She was named one of the top 10 most influential Hispanic-Canadians by the Hispanic Business Alliance in 2015.

“I’ve been a proud member of the press gallery and I feel strongly about how important it is to have press correspondents keeping Canadians in tune with what their representatives are doing,” she says.

Recently, Ditchburn contributed to Sharp Wits and Busy Pens, a history of Parliament Hill’s press gallery published in May 2016.

She also co-edited The Harper Factor, a book on former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s policy legacy, which will be available October 19.

A frequent contributor to television and radio programs such as CBC’s Power and Politics and At Issue panel, Ditchburn continues to write columns for Policy Options that draw on her background covering Canadian politics.


Book launch in Ottawa

Join Jennifer Ditchburn on Wednesday, October 26, 2016:

  • 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.
  • The Métropolitain Brasserie & Restaurant
    700 Sussex Dr.,Ottawa

Learn more

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